Flight of the Bumblebee

The van cabin is overrun with insects. The yellow Dayglo jacket I wear while working on my cameras attracts all sorts of bugs, who seem to think they’ve discovered a giant flower. Bees, wasps, daddy-long-legs, arachnids and assorted minor bugs cling to the jacket, and when I go back inside the van, they come with me.

A spider has been living in the top right corner of the windscreen for the good part of a year now. Self-satisfied and sadistic (it knows I don’t kill spiders), it grows fatter every day, quickly rushing out of its mysterious hiding place to expertly wrap yet another hapless victim in its sticky thread. I roll my eyes disapprovingly and grimace in disgust. The spider winks at me conspiratorially, in acknowledgement of our unspoken agreement of mutual interest, before disappearing again.


That’s what I’ve become: a bug cultivator and spider accomplice. I take care not to kill anything while setting up my cameras, delicately avoiding the orb-weavers, waiting for a passing ant before setting the equipment down on the ground, coaxing greenflies out of harm’s way. The other day, I was horrified to discover I accidentally trod on a butterfly, damaging its wings while its useless body twitched helplessly. Last week I was almost grief-stricken when I inadvertently squashed my van’s resident ladybird after winding the window shut.


But it wasn’t always so. As all boys worth their salt, and reassuringly displaying the cruelty that uniquely characterises our species, my brother and I took great pride in the sophistication and inventiveness of our methods for killing insects. A favourite was to set fire to saúva ants (large black ants with a hard bulbous body and a very painful bite) using only a magnifying glass and the hot Brazilian midday sun. We marvelled at the spectacular way in which they burst into flames with a fizzing rasp, like the striking of a match. There may have been countless victims before we were spotted by our father, who wasn’t impressed.

“If you haven’t given it life, what gives you the right to take it away?”, he asked, quite reasonably but with fire in his eyes.The remark hit home, and from then on we resolved to make amends by providing crickets with helicopter rides: a maximum of two crickets (for extra leg room and comfort) would be placed in the see-through cockpit of the toy helicopter followed by a swift tug of the fishing line wrapped around the base on which the helicopter sat, rotating the propellers and sending it skyward. It’s the least we could do.


Last night, arriving home late, I noticed a dead bumblebee on the otherwise bare dining table. It lay on its back motionless with its satin black and Dayglo furriness and powerful short legs facing the ceiling. I tentatively give it a tap to ascertain it is dead. Nothing, completely stiff. Tired, I leave the room and forget about it.This morning I sit down to eat breakfast and as I place the cereal bowl on the table I notice with distaste the bumblebee is still there, now under a patch of sunlight. I resolve to deal with it after breakfast.I put some yoghurt on the cereal and then drizzle it with honey, and since it is impossible to transfer honey from its jar onto another utensil without dripping it, some of it ends up on the table, a good six inches away from the dead bumblebee. Right on cue, it begins to twitch. I flip it onto its legs but all it can do is raise them pathetically without going anywhere. I push it closer to the honey and it locks its sucker onto it. Its wings vibrate, suddenly kicked into life again, like Popeye after eating a can of spinach. Fascinated, I watch it for a few seconds, then go into the bedroom and fumble around the drawers. When I return brandishing a magnifying glass I am just in time to watch it fly out of the window.


24 Responses

  1. oooo, you write so well you make enidd quite green – and she’s not happy because it clashes with her pink pearls. enidd doesn’t like to kill insects either – she has to lift them to freedom. the man thinks she’s a bit soft.

  2. Just more supporting evidence for my theory that honey truly is the syrup of the gods.

  3. Goodness me.

    Be sure to use your powers for good and not for evil, now.

  4. You make Zinnia green too. And Enidd makes her into a third person. She is easily influenced. It bugs her sometimes.

  5. “When I return brandishing a magnifying glass I am just in time to watch it fly out of the window..”

    Were you really intending to revert to old habits and incinerate Mr. Bumblebee?

    Great read whatever.

  6. Very lovely, Mr Moonke.

  7. Hmm, very nice bit of prose there, Mr. M, and very eco-friendly to boot. Adding resurrecting the dead to your list of talents is a bit unfair on the rest of us, though, please have some consideration and stop showing us lesser mortals up!

    We’re a bit crueler with flies (badminton racket with a few strings missing to give them a sporting chance), and wasps (splattered with anything to hand but fun to use the dyson on and watch them spinning round and round), but no longer incinerate ants. No, we just powder the little sods instead.
    Damn things get everywhere…

  8. tiny things, big ideas, you’ve made me cry….xxx

  9. You soppy git.

    Ps. Glad you liked the crunchie. I thought a bit of variety might be nice.

  10. Proving afterall that you really are a giant flower.


  11. aw sweet, you fed a bee honey… you weren’t really going to frizzle it were you?

  12. I like the idea of you bringing dinner to your pet spider on your jacket. 🙂

  13. My little brother used to tie a piece of cotton around a spiders leg and then take it for a walk. He was always gutted when he arrived at the destination with just a leg on a piece of string.

    Unreliable arachnids….

  14. You’re not a git:)

    Great writing E. I never wear yellow in Australia, it DOES attract all insect life!

    Amazing about the Bumble Bee.

  15. Somebody should confiscate your magnifying glass! I let a spider live in my bedroom behind the mirror once. But one morning I woke up and found that the walls were spotted with hundreds of newly hatched baby spiders. We had to hoover them up, because I wasn’t willing to host a spider hostel.

  16. Oh Edvard, I am coming and wrestling the magnifying glass out of your hands. Make up for your evil ways. Repent!

  17. Just as I was about to agree, wholeheartedly, with “giant flower,” I get to the end. Giant little boy.

  18. I have let so many spiders live, it’s frightening. Now flys, that’s a different matter…..

  19. I understand that bees are in decline and dangerously in danger of becoming endangered… So, if you can replicate your resurrecting techniques then you could have a hit on your hands!
    Great post by the way…

  20. soooooo beautiful 🙂

    Perhaps now I should stop squashing the ones that I think are dead and instead carry around the HRV? (honey revival kit).


  21. I’ve got braver around spiders but they don’t seem to understand they’re meant to eat the flies that I detest.

    You, my sweet, are the bee whisperer.

  22. (sob)

  23. I hate bugs! But bees are sweet… And so are you. 😉

  24. i committed spidercide today. i usually let them live, but this one had scared my son quite badly and then run away to hide (before i could reckon with it). he came out again this morning, and i was there with a handful of toiletpaper to send his little spider soul into the next dimension.

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